Many wealthy people struggle to talk to their children about how much money they have. What if they divulge too much and the kids blab about it on social media? What if they share too little and the children are overwhelmed by an inheritance?
A 2015 T. Rowe Price study of 1,000 parents found that 72% had at least some reluctance to talk to their kids about money. Most of those parents wished there were more resources to teach their children about personal finance.
This is a great time for families to initiate these conversations, since there may be more of a captive audience in the dog days of summer than during the school year.
Financial advisers can help create a years-long plan to teach children where their family’s wealth came from, how it supports the family’s values and how it will be sustained. Often, the key number – parents’ actual net worth – is not revealed.
When kids are as young as 6, parents and advisers can start by helping them identify bills and coins and understand the purpose of money, said Nathan Dungan, president of Minneapolis-based Share, Save, Spend LLC, which helps people link financial decisions to their values.
When kids are a few years older, parents should help them understand utility bills and set savings goals.
Parents can help kids understand where the family’s money comes from by researching genealogy and talking to older generations.
If there is a family business, get the kids involved.
Sandra McPeak, a Rolling Hills Estates, California-based wealth manager with Wells Fargo Advisors, said one of her clients took his teenagers to visit rental properties he wants to invest in and discussed cash flow and expenses. Another client who owned a factory had her daughter assemble textiles and do odd jobs there during the summer. That daughter now runs her own sports clothing line.
Parents can communicate their values during these outings, discussing how they treat employees. They can also take children on tours of their favorite charities.
Advisers should include their clients’ children in meetings, explaining to them: “Your parents have amassed a certain amount of wealth because they’re very thoughtful in the choices they make with their money,” Dungan said.
Advisers can help parents teach kids about personal finance basics, like stocks, bonds and mutual funds, and how compound interest and inflation affects returns.
The goal is for kids to explore what it means to be wealthy, instead of simply asking if the family is rich, Dungan said.
If parents do not control this conversation, kids will find out information about their wealth in haphazard ways.
Dungan said kids use Zillow.com to check out the value of their homes. Others set up Google alerts so they can use U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings to see what their parents make.
“You’d have to be a really super-naive parent,” Dungan said, “to think your kids aren’t at least somewhat aware.”